I thought that ED’s post about how everyone has think tanks was a bit of a mess. I have too many problems with it to list them all, but I’ll start with one: on what planet can ActBlue be compared with a Koch-brother funded think tank? ActBlue is simply an aggregator for small donors and it’s a PAC, not a think tank. PACs aren’t much like think tanks because PACs fund elections, whereas think tanks fund propaganda. I realize that winning elections is related to producing propaganda, broadly speaking, but I don’t see candidates using Cato studies in their ads much.
I have friends who work in politics and I’ll tell you how it goes: if you win an election, you have a job, if you lose it, you may not. That goes for both candidates and their campaign workers. Brink Lindsey, Will Wilkinson, and David Frum can tell you how it goes at think tanks: you toe the line, you keep your job, you don’t, and you lose it. In light of the fact that Lindsey and Wilkinson were recently purged at Cato, it’s remarkably disingenuous for Jason Kuznicki to say “Look, in the years I’ve been at Cato, I’ve never once been told `You need to change your views because the Kochs don’t approve’.” It’s a lot like a potential witness saying “no, the mafia never told me not to testify” in an area where a bunch of witnesses had just been killed.
If you look at Cato and Reason, most of what they write is what Republicans preach minus the Jeebus and race-baiting, plus drug legalization and criticism of the law enforcement (I don’t dispute that these are major additions/subtractions). That’s to be expected: the Jeebus, the race-baiting, the War on Drugs, and “getting tough on crime” are to win elections and think tankers/vanity publication employees don’t have to worry about that. They serve a different master than politicos do.
But this is not another post about libertarianism. My gripe with with what I’ll call establishment libertarnianism (Cato, Reason, Megan McArdle, etc.) is that it is too corporatist. Want to guess what my gripe with establishment liberalism is? It’s that it’s too corporatist too. Freddie deBoer:
I genuinely have a great deal of sympathy for those young rising politicos and bloggers who are constitutionally disposed to be left-wing. What they find, as they rise, is a blogging establishment that delivers the message again and again that to be professionally successful, they must march ever-rightward. That’s where the money is, after all. For every Nation or FireDogLake, there is an Atlantic or Slate, buttressed by money from the ruling class whose interests are defended with gusto by the neoliberal order. I have followed more than a few eager young bloggers as they have been steadily pushed to the right by the institutional culture of Washington DC, where professional entitlement and social success come part and parcel with an acceptance that “this is a center-right nation” is God’s will.
Can anyone deny that Glenn Greenwald will never get a gig at Cato or Reason, that Digby and Matt Taibbi will never get gigs at the Atlantic (I consider GG a libertarian)? Can anyone deny that Glenn Greenwald would generate more pageviews than anyone who is at Reason or Cato, that Digby or Matt Taibbi would get more pageviews than anyone but Sully at the Atlantic?
Of course, the first rule of establishment corporate journalism is that you do not call it establishment corporate journalism. ED (for example) would like to earn living as a journalist, so it’s natural that he pooh-poohs Freddie’s point. I don’t mean to single ED out; to the contrary, the fact that he takes deBoer’s point seriously at all puts him miles above Joe Klein and James Fallows and the rest, who will always simply ignore these sorts of arguments.
They may not even know that these arguments are valid. After all, it’s hard to make a man understand something when his livelihood depends on him not understanding it.
Kain needs to start putting more research into his posts before he starts trying a career as a journalist. Maybe pundit, but I don’t consider most of them journalists either.
ETA: whoever came up with “The Village” to describe the DC press corps did us all a huge favor. It explains a lot. And I generally agree with what you wrote DJGE.
“The Village” is a great expression.
Villago Delenda Est
It’s about the Mammon worship…at the expense of everything else, to include the survival of the species, at this point.
ED wants to be a “journalist?” My cat would do better research, and have better arguments, and he’s been dead for thirty years.
ED’s fundamental point was that SOMEONE pays the rent for each and every think tank, blog, activist organization, etc. How much free range an analyst, activist, or commentator has at any one of these ultimately depends on how much range a high enough portion of those paying the bills are willing to give them and still financially support the organization. Sometimes the connection between the deep pocket(s) and retention/firing is brutally direct, other times the connection is indirect such that those managing the outfit get nervous as they see their support donors drifting off.
DougJ, what you’re saying is that essentially, more progressive outfits are funded either by more diffuse or more tolerant sources of funding than more right-wing conservative outfits. However, ED is correct in that this same fundamental dynamic (the pockets paying for the organization ultimately control its content and content providers) applies equally to both left and right. That is true.
Kain won’t research more about topics: it would crimp his ability to just make shit up. Like his view (in the linked piece) that if organized labor is suffering, it’s simply because people aren’t doing enough organizing. I mean, he’s just hopeless.
@arguingwithsignposts: It was Sally Quinn, and it was accidental on her part.
Thoughtful Black Co-Citizen
Back up. It sounds like you’re conflating journalism and blogging.
Which is a true, but extremely trivial point.
I think Doug’s point is a lot more perceptive and can move the discussion further.
@Thoughtful Black Co-Citizen:
I’m using journalism very broadly here. I understand that most blogging and opinion writing isn’t journalism in the strictest sense.
Thanks for that. It explains a lot.
ETA: I note that Quinn didn’t use “The Village,” but used “small community” or “town.” So whoever coined Village – Digby, I suppose – should get the credit.
ETA 2: And I suppose it ties together with Hillary Clinton’s book “It takes a village…” which makes it doubly delicious.
The major factor in determining the ideological outlook of think tank writers is not so much their individual awareness of the consequences of not toeing the line.
This is akin to those astoundingly weak arguments about campaign financing which assume that the pouring in of money by powerful and wealthy interests is effective only when it serves to change the mind of the recipients.
And the same goes for editorial page writers and often editors. [Including selecting the sources who are used to base articles on — you may not write your own opinion, but you find the people who have the perspective you want; and quote them.)
For each set of people the main influence is to determine who works there — you hire the people who already have the point of view you want, and for those who are relatively inexperienced in these matters, you acculturate them and train them with those who are the veterans.
You’re first and foremost selecting for the ones you wish to support — or differentiating the levels of support each individual or each project gets — and secondly indirectly, or directly, enforcing discipline.
The Village as in “The Prisoner,” right?
Glenn has done research for Cato, for what it’s worth.
What makes sense to me wrt think tanks is the less likely the sponsors are to net a direct financial benefit from the results of the positions being studied by the think tank, the more likely there will be tolerance of independence.
It’s really unclear what point you’re trying to make here, and I expect much better from you, Doug.
“Atlantic or Slate, buttressed by money from the ruling class?” Aw, come on, now. If DeBoer is going to posit something like that, and not back it up with some evidence of where Atlantic and Slate get their money, there is no reason for me to take the analysis, or DeBoer, seriously.
Why would Taibbi leave Rolling Stone for the Atlantic? Rolling Stone is a much bigger platform than the Atlantic (by a factor of almost 3X, based on the most recent circulation data I can find without paying for it). Rolling Stone will let him do pretty much anything he wants, without caring much about whether anything he writes has anything to do with reality.
Why would Greenwald leave Salon? Is there any reason to believe he would make more money or have any greater visibility or influence anywhere else? Is there any reason to believe that Greenwald wants to be at Cato?
There may be an argument lurking here that’s worth being taken seriously, but you haven’t made it. You might want to think about pulling this and editing it for coherence.
@Johannes: Nope. See under V in the lexicon.
Uhhh, GG did just have a reader donation bleg. Nothing wrong with that. Just sayin’.
James Fallows is one of the good guys. Don’t compare him to Joke Line.
I understood that the entire concept of a Think Tank was to produce propoganda. That’s the POINT. You have gathered together intellectuals to make political arguments for you. How honest you are, how honest they are, exactly what you do with those arguments, those things can vary. But a Think Tank writer has specifically been hired to sell a narrative. Isn’t that the concept?
This is utterly different from even heavily biased journalism, where you just find a home because you’re in tune with the agenda of your employer. In the latter that agenda is not specifically your job.
I think Freelancer answered your question.
This is interesting to me. I’m reading Joan Didion’s essay collection, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” which let me say is incredible. Most of the essay were written in the mid-’60s and one was about the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, an early Santa Barbara-based liberal think tank that was funded by the Fund For The Republic. According to Wiki:
As for the Fund For The Republic, whatever happened to it? There is no wiki entry, nothing on Google.
Seems to me the right has done a masterful job of copying everything the left did first … and those institutions on the left which started it all have basically been starved of their financial support.
I thought that this tweet, by a libertarian, was honest and pretty telling.
How is that different from the Atlantic, home of bad calculators?
@cmorenc: There has been this saying that:’he who pays the piper, calls the tune’. That is the ethos of having the money to make the call.
DougJ, why are you shitting on James Fallows? I don’t get why you always attack him. Do you not see that he’s one of the good guys?
i can tu quoque every argument that is made. ever. i can haz libertarian blogger job?
Barb (formerly Gex)
In all, I just see the same problems with libertarians that I see with conservatives: inability to understand nuance. If you start with “all think tanks are the same”, you end with that. In between, some of us might look at what the think tank produces in relation to whatever the facts may be and then evaluate the think tank. And in that, many of us saw a qualitative difference between liberal think tanks and libertarian or conservative think tanks. But to make that evaluation, you need to look deeper than your preconceived notions. The only way Brookings could be considered liberal anymore is if you don’t pay attention to what they are putting out.
And that is what will always separate liberals from libertarians/conservatives. The latter have an ideological frame that they put over the world and try to shape the world according to ideology. Liberals have an end goal in mind and are willing to be pragmatic about getting there. And ultimately, what I see in the conservatives is a rejection of the liberal goal: more equality, more equal opportunity, less poverty, etc. Libertarians aren’t directly opposed to those liberal goals, they just don’t think that government should do anything about it if it requires taxation or regulation.
He’s a nice domesticated establishment liberal.
I don’t study think tanks or quasi-think-tanks (like Reason) very carefully, but it appears that there’s a pecking order there. Each of those places hires a few untouchables whose writing tends to be consistent with the message of the place, but not a key part of the propaganda mission.
Two I can think of are Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Heritage and Radley Balko at Reason.
These people’s claims that they are never given direction by think tank management are probably true. In fact, they probably aren’t even the horse that knows arithmetic. It’s just that they write mainly in an area that’s not part of the central propaganda thrust of the organization.
James Fallows may be that person at The Atlantic.
Thoughtful Black Co-Citizen
@DougJarvus Green-Ellis: Well, you can’t. For one thing that would put me in the same group as people like Confederate Yankee and Erick Erickson.
I think that’s one reason I don’t quite get this post. It SEEMS like you’re saying some people will write whatever their paid to write and some people who are paid to write what their employers’ tell them are more amenable to writing things that may or may not mesh with their own beliefs. Although I find it hard to picture McCurdled weeping tears of self-loathing as she churns out another piece for Tales of An Upper Class Twit.
But I could be wrong.
Thoughtful Black Co-Citizen
And I can’t fucking believe I their/they’red.
DougJ, hopefully this isn’t completely off topic but PEW has a new interactive tool that “Answer your questions about media coverage in 2010”
Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel)
@Southern Beale: That is one of my faves. The White Album too.
AMG this horse is beaten into a thin puddle of hair and adipose tissue already..
Kain’s FUCKING POINT, O ubercudlip DougJ, is that BOTH SIDES DOOO EET.
it was right in the title of the post.
give it up. there is NOTHING in EDK’s posts but psuedo-libertarian whorish pandering to the bankstahs and the jesushumpers.
So Froomkin moved center-rightward when he moved to the HuffPoo from the WaPoo? I’m confused.
There are plenty of other placed on the internets to find dishonest “both sides do it” pablum- why exactly does Balloon Juice have to truck in such nonsense?
@Freddie: oh fuck off freddie. go back and hang wid the fake hipsters and bourgie conservatives at TAS.
libertarianism in AMERICA has wholly been suborned by the bankstahs and the jesushumpers….because of Salam-Douthat stratification on cognitive ability and the rise of third culture intellectuals.
whoever feeds the dog owns the dog.
75% of Americans ARE STUPID.
the right exploits them, the left doesnt.
@baxie: my point exactly.
Conservative drench is everywhere…i naively thought BJ was an island of sanity in the stream of conservative recycled shit.
ALL my heroes have feet of clay.
freddie and dr. manzi too.
@DougJarvus Green-Ellis: look. how hard is this to understand?
libertarianism in America is ANTI-EMPIRICAL.
ALL of it.
EDK is mcmegan with a dick.
get a fucking clue.
WAIT! An ED post that misses the point, is a bit of a mess and misstates the real world facts in order to make his point? Let me get the calendar so I can mark this day! No, on second thought you just described every ED post.
As pointed out above, this was obvious. But also, this wasn’t his only point – there was also the moral equivalence. He insisted that he could see no difference between the Koch brothers funding the propagandizing of an agenda that would let rich polluting labor-abusing industrialists like the Koch brothers get away with bloody murder and Soros funding the propagandizing of an agenda that wouldn’t change Soros’s life in the slightest – if anything, would actually cost him money. He demanded numerical evidence that the Koch recopients’ agenda of low, regressive taxes and no regulation would benefit them, and that Soros’s agenda of health care, immigration reform, environmental regulation, and progressive taxes wouldn’t benefit him materially. He pointed to some security scanner company that made Soros a bit of money, without showing Soros-funded think tanks had pushed for more use of scanners. And then, with the whole thread pointing put his absurd intellectual bankruptcy, he decamped from the thread (which is fine, real life happens) and so far as I know never came back to the topic.
Matoko’s vehemence on the subject may not be useful, but their basic assessment of Kain isn’t far wrong.
What have the right wing think tanks come up with since the 1970’s / 80’s? They turned monetarism in to policy, which failed, they have however produced no big idea since.
EVERY FUCKING POST HERE.
when does this experiment in the possibility of sapient conservatives end?
EDK is waste of spacetime.
@DougJarvus Green-Ellis: He’s a nice domesticated establishment liberal.
But does he exhibit antidisestablishmentarian tendencies?
@The BigotBasher: they are non-empirical.
all their shit failed and they are just drenching the cudlips again.
no Barb….their problem is they are non-empirical.
their shit all failed, and they are right back there drenching the cudlpis again.
aw c’mon — at least he’s a mixed breed shelter liberal, and not a fucking pedigree like Sully.
@eemom: neither sully or edk are any sort of liberal.
they are both conservative shills.
they just pretend they are not.
AMG ur stupid.
@eemom: I don’t read him. Does he ever challenge the ‘rights’ of corporations, seriously argue for economic justice as something more than a plank in one party’s platform, advocate for workers rights to organize and exercise a fundamental right to collectively bargain…?
@DougJarvus Green-Ellis: don t you find it kind of insulting that EDK posts the same recylcled conservative shit here week after week and expects you and cole to cleaunup after him?
i personally would be embarrassed at this point by how many times he has spoofed you.
what is so hard about this?
fallows == mcmegan== edk == douchebag== sully
they are all conservative shills making a headfake towards resonableness.
Umm … Glenn Greenwald is not a libertarian, lol.
GG is a classic Liberal judging by his issues: transparency, citizen representation, rule of law, equality before the law, human rights including rights of privacy, defense of the (actual) US Constitution.
Never once seen the man defend a corporation against humans. In other words, a Liberal.
Sully as a liberal, wow. You’re really not paying much attention, are you EEMom?
LOL. Liberal is the magic label in American politics that means whatever someone wishes, at that moment in time, upon whatever whim they currently feel.
yo mat-asshole, I was talking about Fallows, not EDK.
Learn to FUCKING READ. To quote you.
And suck my udders. Also.
@mistermix: I agree. They are sometimes called “stalking horses”.
I know Sully’s not a liberal. Sheeyit, I was just making a little joke about DougJ calling Fallows “domesticated.” You know, as in ANIMAL.
Lighten up, y’all.
ETA: and ya got it wrong about Greenwald. I don’t know WHAT he is, but he’s no fucking liberal. To your point about corporations, he did defend the Citizens United decision.
For the record 2 seconds on Google tells me precisely who owns both magazines. Lo and behold they are both run by the very epitome of the ruling class.
In particular, Slate was originally owned by Microsoft (under the MSN umbrella) and is currently owned by the Washington Post Corporation (aka Kaplan, Inc).
The Atlantic on the other hand has had a number of owners throughout its (long) history. The last two owners however have been real-estate tycoon and media mogul Mort Zuckerman (in 2008 the 147th richest man in America!). The magazine was sold in 1999 to David G. Bradley (a self-described “neo-con guy”) who made his money consulting the health-care and financial industries (reportedly $300 million from the sale of one of his companies).
In the end not that surprising.
@eemom: ditto fallows…i cant tell any of them apart.
you are retarded if you think sully is a liberal. he is a conservative shill.
he wrote his FUCKING DISSERTATION on dead white guy phailosophy.
you just keep sukking down that drench.
and GG is a classic liberal you dumb bovine.
he allus defends citizen rights you stupid cowbrain.
Win. I’ve been waiting to use that as a title for a while.
Thanks. That looks interesting.
@eemom: Considering Glenn’s view being basically “either the 1st Amendment allows restrictions on expression or it doesn’t; IMO, it doesn’t, at all”, regardless of concern for “negative” result (besides, it’s not like the restrictions were accomplishing anything), and even acknowledging the thoroughly corporatist nature of the political system we live under, characterizing that as in defense of corporations is pretty far off.
Fallows is not one of the good guys. He fellated Goldberg’s Why We Must Bomb Iran piece. He can be counted on to be reliably neocon except where it involves China.
I have to say, I kind of agree with ED Kain on this, if the true leftists want to be taken as seriously as the neoliberals, they have to fight harder for it. Sure, as DougJ mentioned, there are structural limitations, but surely the solution is not to give up, stop blogging and then complain that you are not being taken seriously.
I don’t know about you all but I worked at a think tank, at AEI, though it was in the late 90s, I’m sure none of it has changed except that in that time it was more Libertarian compared to the right wing Heritage and lefter wing Brookings (though it was never really left wing). AEI aka American Enterprise Institute became more of a right wing arm of propoganda when W became President, hell, the pundits and some of the cabinet members were part of AEI.
Think tanks are created purely as peddlers of propaganda with their “scholars” sent all kinds of money to spew into the ears of politicians. Scholars are like lobbyists for ideas, policy, etc. Without the scholars, the think tank doesn’t exist.
The think tank is dependent on funds to pay these scholars and to pay staff, rent and other expenses. Corporations, politicians and Government departments (DOD, Pentagon, Health and Human Services) need these think tanks to send their literature to like minded individuals and of course the media.
Think tanks are nothing but factories of incestuous masturbation.
I have my comment in moderation but if it ever makes it out of moderation, I’ve boiled down the purpose of think tanks into three paragraphs and a sentence.
Gary Trudeau summed it up nicely a few years ago: think tanks versus belief tanks. Nobody can tell me there’s no difference between getting Soros bux and Koch bux.
@Freddie: Perfect. I’ve often thought young Ezra and young Matt really need to do one of two things: Either be sent to Youngstown to spend 18 years raising two kids on a non-union manufacturing wage, or spend a solid week locked in small cabin with Barbara Ehrenreich and Dean Baker.
They really have no concept what “median family income of $50,000 per year, down slightly over 2% over the last 30 years” means to real human beings.
Let’s google Greenwald and CATO.
@Paul: Yes let’s.
P.S. – I didn’t “pooh-pooh” Freddie’s point. I basically said if you want more of your voice to be heard, then speak.
You know, it’s one thing to criticize the structural issues (vis a vis corporate masters etc) that leads to certain spectrum of the left to be left out of the conversation. But it’s another to blame bloggers like Kain and Yglesias for being who they are and not being what Freddie wish they are.
This whole thing reminds me of all the griping when Michael Kinsley was the host “from the left” on Crossfire. From the left? That’s the best we can do? Michael freakin’ Kinsley? I understand the frustration that according to people in TV-land, neoliberal Michael Kinsley is as far left as they are able to tolerate. But what was he supposed to do? Turn down the offer and say, hey, I’m not left enough for the job, go hire Noam Chomsky instead? Similarly, do we expect Ezra Klein to say to the Post, hey, I’m actually not that leftist, why don’t you hire that true leftist Freddie de Boer instead? Normal people don’t behave this way. Surely it’s too much to expect of them.
In my time working in the technology industry I’ve met a lot of people with various political perspectives, but for the most part I’d say they fall into one of two camps: either DLC-style social liberals/fiscal centrists or economic libertarians. Almost everyone shares an aversion to social conservatism; maybe it’s the locale (SF peninsula), maybe it’s the large number of immigrants integrated in the workplace. On the other hand, people also tend to be very pro-market and anti-government-regulation (except for being pro-net-neutrality); there’s a widespread belief that the government simply isn’t competent when it comes to regulating technical issues, or at the very least that regulatory capture is a big enough problem to make the whole effort counterproductive. There’s almost universal agreement that labor unions are bad, inefficient, corrupt organizations; I don’t think any of us has had much experience with them outside of seeing public services shut down due to strikes.
I find it interesting that these perspectives seem to parallel the political orientations of most influential think tanks. I think there has to be a significant skew in think tanks just based on the kinds of people who would work at and/or support a think tank: intelligent, upwardly-mobile urban professionals who went to the right schools and can afford to take internships in the summers; people who know they can always fall back on their families if worst comes to worst. The most successful among them of course will be superstars, so any kind of collective bargaining or worker solidarity would disproportionately hurt them. I guess it’s not a big surprise there’s so little pro-labor support in the blogging class. I would never even consider myself pro-labor, having no knowledge or experience in that area, but I often end up taking that position in political discussions simply because no one else will.
Being a contrary cuss is an asset in the Balloon Juice community.